I was sort of aghast yesterday at the media frenzy over Hillary Clinton having an infection, which is what catching a pneumonia virus is.
To be clear, I do understand it. But that doesn't mean I can't be appalled at the same time. After all, I understand how Donald Trump got the GOP nomination to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States, but I still find it ghastly.
I understand that this virus and feeling faint for 90 minutes fits into the narrative of Secretary Clinton supposedly having "Major Health Issues," including that she had a coughing fit. But keep in mind, the only reason some people have come to believe that Mrs. Clinton actually, supposedly has a substantive "health issue" is because...Donald Trump keeps ranting about it to convince us.
Donald Trump making charges on pretty much anything lost its credibility about, oh, three decades ago, back when he took out a full-page newspaper ad to try and convict a group of teenagers of a crime they were later exonerated for. And his fake-charges only have gotten worse and more frantic the past year. We've seen how he goes out and pins some spin on someone and keeps relentlessly repeating it, "Little Marco," "Lying Ted," "Low-Energy Jeb," until it becomes accepted -- not accepted as "fact," but as an open charge, that can therefore be valid to debate. If he keeps saying he was always against the War in Iraq, despite actual audio proof to the contrary, it eventually becomes presented as a "disputed fact," rather than the lie it is. So, Donald Trump has gone on and on and on and on about Hillary Clinton being is such dire health -- despite zero evidence to support it -- and when she eventually gets an infection on the campaign trail and needs to get re-hydrated for an hour-and-a-half, the press begins to question how this fits in her health narrative.
There is no "health narrative." There is Donald Trump -- a man who is currently on trial for fraud -- trying to con the world into believing something that doesn't exist. And without this flimflam background with zero evidence to support it, today's story would have been, "Hillary Clinton has cold."
Keep in mind, while all this media angst questions Ms. Clinton's health, that from the time she was diagnosed with pneumonia and given an antibiotic, she nonetheless campaigned for two days, held a press conference, oversaw a two-hour meeting on national security, giving speeches, and attended a 9-11 memorial for an hour-and-a-half outdoors. That's not someone with a health issue, it's someone with impressive stamina under stressful condition that would have long-since buckled most anyone. Keep in mind, too, that one of the side-effects of having pneumonia is dehydration, and another is feeling faint. And then, after all that, she was back on her feet 90 minutes later.
But this is the thing. As I said, I do understand the press asking question about her health. She had an infection and felt faint. It's fair to ask about it. But what was so dismaying is not so much that the press pounded this for most of the day (especially CNN and "Fox News"), which certainly is problematic enough, but rather that this is what captures the media's attention for such frenzy. Not --
-- that Donald Trump was fined for an illegal contribution to the Florida Attorney General after which she dropped an investigation into fraud charges over Trump University, which raises the question of bribing a government official.
-- that Donald Trump made a similar contribution in Texas, where a similar investigation was dropped.
-- that there is an actual lawsuit ongoing in which Trump University is being sued for fraud.
-- that there is a state investigation in New York going on into Trump fraud.
-- that Trump is still not releasing any tax returns, not even the first two pages of his returns which all experts acknowledge have zero bearing on an IRS audit...if there even is an audit, which has ever been established...and even if there was an audi, all experts acknowledge he could still release his tax returns.
-- that there are charges that Trump may owe hundreds of millions of dollars to Russian oligarchs as his main source of financing.
-- that there are reports Trump businesses have massive debts to Chinese banks, which are owned by the Chinese government.
-- that Trump's longtime campaign head Paul Manafort was, basically, a paid agent of Russian oligarchs, if not the Russian government itself.
-- that there is a long record of Trump not paying contractors for work done on his projects, and being repeatedly sued for it.
-- that Trump was sued twice by the federal government for racial bias in his housing practice and was forced to change procedures how the company operated.
-- that Trump was fined $750,000 by the Federal Trade Commission for charges that he violated anti-trust laws in illegally trying to take over a rival casino.
-- that Trump has had six bankruptcies.
-- that Trump cancelled four campaign appearances only a few weeks ago for reasons that were never disclosed or especially reported on.
And on and on and on and on. And yet, all day Sunday -- and probably for more days ahead -- we get a full-court media blitz on Hillary Clinton having a virus. But not any of this above, which in an otherwise rational world, any of these stories would be worthy of ongoing front page headline reporting.
And instead of looking into multiple counts of bribery and fraud and on-record anti-trust violations and on-record racial bias violations and on-record bankruptcies and more, we spent weeks probing for the possibility of the appearance of potential conflicts in a world-admired foundation that saves millions of lives. We spend a year making nothing more than further assumptions about emails that have had already been investigated eight times by House committees, all of which have found literally nothing. (Never mind that the Bush Administration conveniently "lost" 22 million emails about the Iraq War.)
But even more to the point. Even if you ignore all the above...where is the full-time, front-page, lead-story focus on foreign affairs, education, gun control, poverty, energy, health care, national security, global warming and more. This is a campaign for President of the United States. The Commander-in-Chief of the American military. The most powerful person in the world. And we've spent the full day on an infection. All these small, rumored stories, they're worth looking into. But as small, rumored stories. What the campaign for the presidency is supposed to be about is substantive things that matter, that actually affect the lives of 320 million Americans. Not to mention impact the billions of people around the world. Not all day on the flu.
Keep the eye on the ball, folks.
I understand the fun, shiny things get more viewers. And policy can be boring. But that's why we have a campaign. It's the campaign for President of the United States that not only matters, but is the ONLY thing that matters. That's why all the fans are there in the stands watching the game -- the beach ball bouncing around might be cute to see for a few seconds...but everyone is there for the game.
This is the game. The Presidency of the United States. Who selects the next Supreme Court judges. Who has their finger on the nuclear bomb. Who sits down with the world leaders to keep the entire world safe. Who handles global warming and the future of the planet. Who sets the agenda for the economy and health and the military and all levels of security and social well-being. Things that matter.
That's the game. That's why we're here. Whatever side you're for.
This is about who will be the President of the United States.
I like the press. In fact, I have great admiration for it. It's one of the subjects I love reading about. It's a part of my professional background. One of the very few heroes I have is Edward R. Murrow. I don't think The Press is especially guilty of political biases. (To be clear, I don't count "Fox News" in this, which is largely a wing of the Republican Party.) But I do think the press has behaved slovenly during the past year, which is one of the reasons we have Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. They've taken the easy, flashy stories. They've taken the "this will get viewers" stories. They've taken the easy narratives. What they've let slide are the substantive, meaningful news stories.
And the result is a day spent on a candidate catching a virus, getting dehydrated and returning 90 minutes later.
I understand reporting it. And looking into it.
But the lack of perspective and balance is shameful.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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